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AFGHAN JOURNALIST DECLARED ENEMY COMBATANT

An Afghan journalist working for a Canadian television network who has been held for four months without charge has been designated an "unlawful enemy combatant" by the U.S. military, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and news reports.

Jawed Ahmad (also known as "Jojo Yazemi"), 22, a locally hired journalist for the Canadian TV network CTV, was detained because he posed a threat to foreign troops and the Afghan government, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition told the Associated Press.

CPJ says that although the Pentagon has made a "very serious allegation," Ahmad has not been charged with any criminal offence, nor have the allegations or evidence against him been disclosed. "We urge military officials to either charge Jawed Ahmad with a recognisable criminal offence or, if they have no intention of doing so, to release him immediately," says CPJ.

"CTV news continues to be deeply concerned about Jojo Yazemi's well being and we are continuing to work all diplomatic channels available to find out additional information and get Jojo his due process," Robert Hurst, president of CTV News, said in a statement.

Ahmad was detained on 26 October at a NATO airbase in the southern city of Kandahar. He was later transferred to a detention centre at the U.S. military base in Bagram, north of Kabul.

According to news reports, it is common for journalists in the country to have contact with Taliban insurgents so they can seek their comments for stories.

Ahmad's case is the latest instance of the U.S. military using open-ended detentions of journalists in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq.

In most cases, the journalists have been freed. But U.S. authorities have not filed charges against Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj, who was arrested while covering the U.S.-led fight to oust the Taliban and has been held for more than five years at Guantánamo Bay, or Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, held in Iraq for 22 months.

Visit these links:
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/23g5uv
- Associated Press via "Toronto Star": http://tinyurl.com/32wdlg
(Photo courtesy of CTV)

(4 March 2008)

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